Understanding “The Green World” and It’s Space within the Modern Romantic Comedy

This week I decided to focus my attentions on one of my favorite romantic comedy’s: The Proposal. Specifically, the dance scene with Margaret and Grandma Annie. I believe this is a fantastic modern example of the transition out of the normal realm and into “the green world,”  as talked about in Northrop Frye’s essay and the discussion of “New Comedy.” In most cases, “the green world” becomes a place where symbolic underlaying plot lines can be represented in the story without becoming adversely obvious. Or as expressed in the reading, “the victory of summer over winter.”

If we are able to look past the cultural appropriation seen here in this clip, I think it really eloquently shows the fantastical in a context the viewer might not expect. The physical space where the dance sequence takes place is in the forest, much like seen in the example of A Midsummer Night’s Dream where the characters are confronted with situations that could not exist in the regular world. Grandma Annie’s use of specific chanting and elaborate costumes are out of place within the context of the story; she has been an innocent observer mostly up until this point in the film. Margret seems thrown off by seeing her in this instance almost immediately. She then joins in on the dancing and chanting, and starts singing a modern R&B song. This context is setup mainly for comic effect, which it delivers by having Betty White try to sing along to this incredibly inappropriate song. The use of “magic”, as seen when White’s character throws dust onto the fire to create an sizzling explosion, also defies the sense of logic and reason we would expect to see.

I find this particularly funny because of the dancing and the out-of-place song choice. And I truly find Sandra Bullock and Betty White to be a great comedy duo, as well.

 

Frye, Northrop. “1. The Argument of Comedy.” English Institute Essays, 1949, pp. 58–73.

4 comments

  1. I think this is a good example of what Northrop Frye defines as the ‘green world’ in Shakespeare’s plays as, clearly, the character leaves the ‘normal world’ to enter this one. However, I don’t see Betty White’s ritual as congruent with the plot, even in this new setting. Instead, I think this is part of the comic effect of the scene: that, out of nowhere, there is a woman chanting in the forest.

  2. I agree, I think this scene is comedic partly because it is so unexpected. It is a complete transition out of the real world and into the strange green world of the scene. There is nothing preceding this in the film to suggest that this realm exists, and the character of Annie is again an unexpected choice for its representative.

  3. I think you apply Frye’s analysis of the “green world” to contemporary pieces well. Entering the forest allows the characters to step out of the normal world and express their desires. It also is very useful comic tool. I don’t think any thing in the film becomes symbolic in this clip, but is used more for comic effect.

  4. I like your point of this scene as an example of the “green world” as a device to resolve or further underlying plot lines. It is especially true, as you say, this scene has no impact on the narrative at all. It is simply a comic device that builds a new connect between the two characters involved whilst engaging the audience in its absurdity.

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